" 'Take your eyes away from the needle. Slow your breath, baby. Take a slow, long sip of air and exhale longer," I tell my 8 year old son who is undergoing chemo for tumor in his arm. Using imagination and breathing has helped his anxiety and calmed his butterfly stomach each week. On weeks where he doesn't focus on breathing, he often throws up before we even start treatment."
This is my yoga. The breath inside the breath."
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Oh the crazed choices I have made when love induced dopamine gave me a feeling of euphoria and clouded my senses. Over time though, that fortunately fades and the wisdom body kicks in. Suddenly, I realize how damn tired I am. How I have been spinning my wheels to please others or even a passionate attempt at doing what I love: yoga.
Many things are good but there are paths that are more soul-quenching than others.
I think I've found it within Rest.
"To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given."
Rest is an essential part of healthy brain function. In order to function optimally, at our best, we all have to have it. When life, kids or work demands I wake up and my body is not rested, I feel drained. I reach for things like coffee or plunge into naps at odd hours just to keep up. When I travel abroad, I'm usually so fatigued that I can sleep the entire 17 hour first flight. Entirely. Now that's tired.
Lack of rest and adequate sleep can cause depression, weight gain, dull your brain, age your skin, health problems, disinterest in sex, and increase your risk of death. We all know the end of our story, but wouldn't it be a gift to ourselves and certainly to those we love to prolong our life by getting the rest our body is craving?
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ~John Lubbock
Now home in Asia after months of traveling, I'm coming back to a routine of nurturing myself. Catching up on work emails, yes, but also making time for quiet, writing, a realistic yoga asana and pranayama practice, my kids, or just simply walking the dog without my phone. And, of course, sleep. Just doing life at it's normal rhythm without forcing things or over scheduling. Creating space for Rest.
From my favorite author and poet, Davide Whyte. He shares his definition of rest which resonates with my desire to return to inner stillness, breath and feeling whole again.
"REST is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bulls eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.
The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving which is the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe, to walk as we were meant to walk, to live with the rhythm of a house and a home, giving and taking through cooking and cleaning. When we give and take in this easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given."
Posted by Melissa at 11:29 PM
Monday, July 21, 2014
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
if you can know despair or see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes,
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living,
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace,
even the gods speak of God.
From RIVER FLOW: New and Selected Poems
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
His note about this poem: Oriah took her work 'The Invitation', from this poem, which had been written many years before, after she had participated in a workshop I gave in Toronto, in which I used Self Portrait as an exercise in which people were asked to write their own versions. For reasons known only to herself, Oriah failed to attribute it. DW
Posted by Melissa at 1:30 PM
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Visiting my father in Santa Fe, New Mexico this month. My dad turned 72 last year, me 42. For the first time, I have felt his keen awareness of his impermanence. While his overall health is good, he's teetering along the delicate balance of family, dogs and house responsibilities. Thankfully, he seems happier than in many years.
He pulled out all the family photos from the days when we actually developed our pictures. Culling through them, there are many of me as a child, his wife, Marcee, of over 25 years who is in full time care for Alzheimer's, and images all the many trips taken over the years with and without me. Some older ones I haven't yet riffled through. So I will begin to add some of my favorites here.
Many of the photos of Marcee and Dad capture the spirit of their friendship and love while expose their passion for their pets and flirtation with travel with friends and some side trips taken when my dad's job allowed him to travel. I remember him to be a bit of a high achiever. But also to have a strong curiosity for the world - just like his lust for books and music.
Andrew today, photo of me at age 4 or 5
Marie Thoma married Prentice White, 37 in 1941 at age 23.
Mamo and Granddad Carol, Santa Fe 1992
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Reflecting today as one niece graduates from High School and the other from University this semester. Both are incredible, resilient young women. Having lived far from them most of their lives, I missed a lot of milestones but also recognize that the moments I have witnessed close and far have been priceless.
I wanted to share some advise with them upon graduation. And, this commencement speech below could not be more perfect.
My dear nieces, may you live your lives so full, so vibrantly imperfect that what you offer to the world is the best version of you, your highest self. Always ask yourself, am I doing what makes me come alive?
Sharing the view with you,
"It's a great honor for me to be the third member of my family to receive an honorary doctorate from this great university. It's an honor to follow my great-uncle Jim, who was a gifted physician, and my Uncle Jack, who is a remarkable businessman. Both of them could have told you something important about their professions, about medicine or commerce.
I have no specialized field of interest or expertise, which puts me at a disadvantage, talking to you today. I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.
Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he'd been diagnosed with cancer: "No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office." Don't ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat." Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.
People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good.
Here is my resume: I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen, I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh. I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.
I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.
So here is what I wanted to tell you today:
Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous.
Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night.
And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister.
All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of the azaleas, the sheen of the limestone on Fifth Avenue, the color of our kid's eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist instead of live. I learned to live many years ago.
Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get. I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this:
Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.
Well, you can learn all those things, out there, if you get a life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too, a life of love and laughs and a connection to other human beings. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Here you could learn in the classroom. There the classroom is everywhere. The exam comes at the very end. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office. I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months.
He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule; panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them.
And I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn't he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view."
And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that's the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You'll never be disappointed."
Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlen's commencement address to Villanova University, Friday 23 June 2000.
Posted by Melissa at 4:52 AM
Sunday, May 18, 2014
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” ~ Rumi
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” ~ Rumi
Lessons come in all varieties. It's just recognizing them when they come.
I found myself frustrated with the process of my son's treatments, with myself and my son's doctor this weekend. In addition to those challenges, I am also evaluating some teachings I offered in the past. Not to dwell on them but to grow from them.
Experience is the teacher and there is no substitute for the time it takes to learn these lessons, even when it feels like the same ones come over and over again just in various forms.
Stepping away today from looking back into swiftly preparing future events and teachings. All the while, I am reminded of my vision to remain true to my desire to act, speak and teach from a soft heart and bold voice in this present moment. I
I love how Donna Farhi defines yoga as "a technology for arriving in the present moment." She goes on to say, "it is a means for waking up from our spiritual amnesia, so that we can remember all that we already know. It is a way of remembering our true nature, which is essentially joyful and peaceful. It is a means of staying in the intimate communication with the formative core matrix of yourself and those forces that serve to bind all living beings together. As you establish and sustain this intimate connection, this state of equanimity becomes the core of your experience rather than the rare exception."
To find that equanimity and connection, I am asking myself before I react to someone or something:
Is it kind?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
When the answers are yes, then I am learning to cultivate graceful waiting, so that my reply doesn't come from a prideful, arrogant need to be in control kind of place. As a visionary of the course I aspire to chart, I acknowledge that I have no control over anything but my own choices.
This work isn't about giving things up or even changing who I am to please someone else. It's a gradual falling away of those things that no longer nourish my heart. All of that seems to come when I take time to be still, listen and wait.
When I lie in that grass, as Rumi says, the whole world is deeply vibrant and still- almost too full to talk about. And, in that stillness the lessons of life become like the constellations lighting the night sky. The light, my own, becomes bright and clear showing me the way.
Posted by Melissa at 11:31 PM
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Feeling inspired today by all the interactions with encouraging friends this past month. If you haven't done so, surround yourself immediately with others that will not only lift you up but challenge your ways of thinking and sharpen you, make you laugh out loud at yourself and offer you empathy when you need just have a good cry.
When I'm with friends like that, it's abundantly clear to me that all the stars don't have to align or the planets don't have to be squared off or whatever for me to find pockets of joy among the ups and downs of living.
I can choose to do the things that make me happy.
Happiness is everywhere... especially today.
Happy birthday today to my most amazing 13 year old, son #1. His curiosity for life, sensitivity and playfulness remind me to stop taking everything so darn seriously. Thank you for the gift of you. I am truly happy to be your mom.
*son #1 dressed up for school (hero/ princess day) raising awareness for cancer. yup.
Posted by Melissa at 11:10 PM